Essay by Eric Worrall
“Health benefits” of CO2 pricing and lower CO2 emissions include having to walk and cycle more.
Australia finally has new climate laws. Now, let’s properly consider the astounding social cost of carbon
Published: September 8, 2022 4.00pm AEST
Thomas Longden Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University
Richard Norman Associate Professor in Health Economics, Curtin University
Sotiris Vardoulakis Professor of Global Environmental Health, The Australian National University
Tom Kompas Professor of Environmental Economics and Biosecurity, The University of Melbourne
The federal government’s climate change bill passed the Senate on Thursday. Among the mandates in the new Climate Change Act are assessments of the social, employment and economic benefits of climate change policies.
A letter we published today in The Lancet Planetary Health outlines the importance of measuring the effects of climate change on human health when assessing the social cost of carbon.
A study this month in Nature put the global social cost of carbon at A$275 per tonne of CO₂ released. Impacts on health (49%) and agriculture (45%) accounted for most of this.
Accounting for the social cost of carbon would lead to investment and policy decisions that support emissions reduction. It would also deter support for projects that increase emissions, such as new coal mines.
Australia’s new annual climate change statement should also explicitly examine the health benefits of climate policies. These are likely to include fewer respiratory illnesses as a result of cleaner air, and increases in exercise associated with active travel options such as walking and cycling.
I don’t know where the scientists expect solar panels to come from, if they keep deterring coal mines. The only commercial process available today to make silicon for solar panels requires reacting pure silica with vast quantities of coal. This is why the slave factories of Xinjiang are one of the major global centres of solar panel manufacture – Xinjiang has the vast quantities of coal required.
A 49% health benefit from walking or cycling more – what they actually appear to be saying is they will deprive people of choice, to make them healthier. Is this really the kind of world we want, where other people dictate our health choices? Maybe some of us could use more exercise, but if all people really are priced out of their automobiles by carbon taxes, we all know people, or know of people, who would have difficulty cycling everywhere, even if this was the only option. I personally can’t cycle anymore, due to a sport injury.
But the real absurdity of the high social cost of CO2 claim is the claim that global warming would lead to significant agricultural losses. Even NASA admits the world is greening.
Looking to past warm periods, like the Cretaceous (age of the dinosaurs) or the extreme warmth of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, when conditions were so bountiful our primate ancestors spread out from Africa to cover much of Eurasia and the Americas, all the way up to Greenland, the only “evidence” that warmer weather will lead to losses is the broken computer models used to produce such predictions.
The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal maximum, up to 8C / 14F hotter than today, a tropical world of lush abundance stretching all the way to the poles, was not a place where it was difficult to find food.
So where is this great browning, this age of widespread agricultural losses, supposed to fit into a continuum of warming and rising abundance which leads to the tropical garden which was the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum?
The NASA observations of greening, and paleo-climate studies of past warm periods, ranging from the Holocene Optimum, the geologically recent period of climatic abundance which allowed our ancestors to abandon the hunter gatherer life, build towns and become farmers, to distant past periods of extreme warmth, like the warm period during which our primate ancestors spread across the world, tell us CO2 and warmth promote plant growth and food plant yields.